CITE launches documentary on lockdown human rights violations

THE Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE) on Wednesday evening virtually launched a documentary on human rights violations during the Covid-19-induced lockdown, highlighting how Zimbabweans suffered at the hands of security forces under the guise of enforcing pandemic control measures.

A number of rights enshrined in the country’s constitution were grossly violated last year as the government came up with stiffer regulations which among other things limited the movement of citizens.

The documentary features a sad story of the deceased Paul Munakopa of Hillside who was shot by police, the experiences of Cowdray Park women who were also brutalised by the law enforcement agents among other human rights violations.

Speaking during the launch, CITE director, Zenzele Ndebele, said it was regrettable that lives were lost during the lockdown as a result of human rights violations perpetrated by the state.

“What is sad is that some people died during the lockdown,” said Ndebele.

“We have got one or two cases in which people were killed but there were so many other people who were killed. A young boy in Njube was beaten up and died. We could not cover everyone who was beaten up, who was assaulted during this time. This is just a sample of what happened.”

Ndebele said it was sad that most of these people did not get justice, citing the cases of Cowdray Park women and that one of Munakopa which have not been finalised.

He said because of fear, some citizens were made to pay fines where it was not even necessary.

“I know that the 2013 Constitution changed the police from the police force to the police service but we are yet to see the service that is offered by our police officers because during the lockdown, they were really a police force and their force was felt by many Zimbabweans,” he said.

Ndebele appealed to relevant authorities to bring to book all those who violated human rights during the lockdown, adding that Zimbabweans expect better from the “Second Republic.”

Reflecting on the documentary, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) director, Siphosami Malunga said it was heart-breaking to watch a mother cry for her child whose life has been taken by someone who has no remorse or repentance.

“We would be mistaken to think that the problem of police brutality started with Covid,” said Malunga.

“We would be mistaken to think that it is restricted only to Zimbabwe.”

He added that the phenomenon was global.

Malunga said the relationship between citizens and the police in Zimbabwe remains completely broken down, adding there is no way the latter could be effective in their duties without the trust of the public.

Sethulo Ncube, a commissioner at the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) said they ensured that members of the public were aware of their rights and the limitations during the lockdown.

“The Commission in 2020 received many complaints from the members of the public relating to the abuse of power by duty bearers which had a negative impact on the exercise of their rights. This included the freedom of movement,” said Ncube.

Public Policy and Research Institute of Zimbabwe (PPRIZ) director Gorden Moyo described the documentary as touching.

“The team (CITE) did a thorough job,” said Moyo.

“It is so sad that the state that is supposed to protect Zimbabweans during hard times, decided to weaponise Covid-19. We have already seen the evidence of the weaponisation of Covid.

Emthonjeni Women’s Forum director, Sikhathele Mathambo, described people’s experiences during the lockdown as “sad events indeed”.

“It is very important to note that violence against women is one of the biggest human rights violations in the country,” decried Mathambo.

“It is sad to also note that the police are part of the perpetrators of violence. We also note that during the lockdown from last year up to current times that we are in we have realised that there are high incidences of gender-based violence. The security forces are not behaving the way they are supposed to, according to the constitution.  The question could be: “Who then will police the police?

Need for the security forces to respect human rights.

Communications officer at the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Kumbirai Mafunda said measures taken by the government as part of Covid-19 control were seen as a way of locking down democracy in Zimbabwe.

“We have observed as the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights that ever since the imposing of the lockdown we have seen an erosion of the democratic space and rule of law and we have experienced gross and systematic human rights violations in the country,” said Mafunda.

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